Month: March 2014

BASEBALL TEAMS OF YORE: The Kitty League

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Today is opening day across Major League Baseball. Now, of course, Paducah has never had a major league team, but we were, for several years, part of the Kitty League, a class D minor league circuit. Originally referred to as the K-I-T league because it consisted of teams from Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee, the Kitty League started in 1903 and ran off and on until1955.

Of course, funny and amazing stories about the league abound, and they literally fill books (we have several available at the library), but one interesting aspect of the league are the team names. Paducah’s team went through four names changes: the Chiefs, Indians, Polecats, and Red Birds. But Paducah’s team names are fairly ordinary when compared to others around the league: Henderson Hens, Owensboro Distillers, Vincennes Alices, Cairo Egyptians, Mayfield Pantsmakers, Princeton Infants, Danville Old Soldiers, the Paris Parisians, the Springfield Blanketmakers, and the McLeansboro Billikens.

The history of the league is fascinating. If you’re a baseball fan, come learn more about the Kitty League at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

MARCH MADNESS…IN 1909

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So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a pretty big basketball game tomorrow. While the thought of a Kentucky/Louisville matchup may bristle your tail and ruffle your feathers, surely it can’t compare to the excitement of Paducah’s Original March Madness…in 1909.

Under the prophetic headline, “Basketball May Become Popular,” the Paducah Evening Sun reported in December 1908 of the possible institution of the city’s first basketball league. After the turn of the new year, that prospect became a reality and the Paducah Basketball League began playing games. Six teams made up the league, compiled of players from local clubs and societies: Paducah High School; the Elks; Knights of Columbus; the Chess, Checker, and Whist Club; D.A.D.; and Paducah Light and Power.

Basketball was such a new sport, that in 1909 the newspaper dedicated nearly a full page to describing for its readership the rules of the game and why they should be interested in it. Said the Evening Sun, “Basketball, if played by the rules is a most exceedingly interesting game, both to the payers and to spectators, but if the rules are not respected, the game resembles more a wholesale wrestling, boxing, and free-for-all contest. If gymnasiums had padded floors and walls, it would be interesting to see a game termed basketball or indoor football, where players could be thrown, tripped, given a half nelson every now and then, and at the same time stand no chance of injury, but the rules of basketball, as given by the official guide of 1909, define every point of the game so clearly that the game if refereed properly, should not even be termed rough.”

Held at the gymnasium in the Eagle building, the six teams played double-headers twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, during the first three months of 1909, and in keeping with modern tradition, the season culminated (in madness) at the end of March with the crowning of a champion. Unlike modern tradition, no championship game was played, rather the champion was determined by the team’s percentage of wins throughout the season.

And who was crowned champion of Paducah’s very first basketball league?

The Chess, Checkers, and Whist Club reigned supreme and were presented with a beautiful loving cup for their efforts ( a loving cup, by the way, is a silver, multi-handled, over-sized, wine vessel). According to the Evening Sun, the cup cost $20 and was “engraved appropriately.”

For more information about vintage sporting events in Paducah, visit us at the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. 

A LOVE LETTER TO SARAH (OR MAYBE SALLIE)

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Perhaps this love letter was tossed aside, or perhaps it was one that was treasured. Perhaps the aching, pleading sentiment expressed in this young man’s words were requited. Or maybe not.

This letter has floated around the Local and Family History Department for a while, and, in truth, we can’t tell you much more about it. We don’t know where it came from. We know neither the identity of the author nor the recipient. We don’t have the complete letter, only a couple pages. We can’t even hazard a guess for a date (though it just feels old).

It’s clear that the author pours out his heart with an honest beauty, yet, at the same time, well, it just seems as if there’s some confusion as to the object of his affection. Who knows? Read it for yourself.

“I went over to Illinois this morning and bought a farm, just a few miles from the ferry landing. There is quite a nice house and barns on it, but the house is almost an encumbrance. At any rate it is a useless article to me for I lack that one thing that makes a house comfortable, that brings happiness wherever it is, that dispels the dark clouds of sorrow and brings bright sunshine in its stead. Namely a wife. And that you know I have not, though if I can, I’m going to get one soon – provided, of course, she and I are close—for if I do not get one soon, I shall be an old Batchelor [sic] before I turn around. And that would not suit me.

Now Miss Sarah, I ask you in good faith for your advice and I will follow it to the very letter if you will give it to me. What shall I do in my dilemma? Shall I hunt up some nice young Lady for a Wife or what shall I do? Well for the present I will content myself in my lonely Batchelor’s lot until I get your advice upon the subject.

Miss Sallie, I tried very hard to get out of town this afternoon. I wanted to come out and see you, but I could not do so. I want to see you bad. You know that I have [been] coming to see you for two years and I have loved you from the beginning. You have long been dearer to me than any thing in this wide world. Now I have long regarded [you], as no other woman can ever be by me, not by the passionate love of a boy, but by the deep, earnest, sincere, devoted love of a man, have I, and do I love you still. Now will you trust your much loved self to the protection of that love? You may think this is sudden but you would not if you knew how long you have been…”

Editor’s Comment: See what I mean? Is the letter to Miss Sarah or Miss Sallie? Very, very awkward. For the author’s sake, let’s hope her names were interchangeable or that the confusion was cleared up in the second part of letter. But if not, let’s all take this as a lesson on the importance of proofreading.

For more uncomfortable love scenarios, please visit the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. 

Roustabouts, Hoboes, Witches and Motorcycles

Roustabouts, Hoboes, Witches and Motorcycles… Check out this section of the Paducah Sun, March 10, 1914.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85052116/1904-03-10/ed-1/seq-2/

On this day in Paducah History: Saunders A. Fowler

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On this day in Paducah History, we celebrate the birthday of Saunders A. Fowler, born and died in Paducah, KY, March 8, 1867 – January 20, 1944.

Saunders was President of the Fowler Wharfboat Company which was a notable Paducah business for years.

On his 37th birthday, March 8, 1904, he surely arose early to make his report in the Paducah Sun, “Observations taken at 7 a.m. River 19.6 on the gauge, a rise of 1.2 in the last 24 hours. Weather clear and warm. Temperature 46 with east winds. SAUNDERS A. FOWLER, Local Observer.”

According to the 1931 ‘Who’s Who on the Ohio River’ by Ethel C. Leahy, Saunders was born to, “Littleton Augustus (known as Gus) Fowler, of Princeton, KY and Laura (Saunders) Fowler of Knoxville, TN. Married. Two Children. Presbyterian; Democrat; Elk. Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity; Country Golf Club. Educated at Centre College, Danville, KY. Hobbies, boating and fishing. Occupation, engineering and fuel saving. Formerly gen’l. Freight agt. and supt., of the “Fowler Line” packet boats, running between Evansville, IND. and Cairo, Ill.
Business address……..321 City Nat’l. Bank Bldg., Paducah, KY
Residence………………..Route 6, Lone Oak Road, Paducah, KY”

The Fowler Family was not only influential in the river industry, but also in the overall history of the great city of Paducah. To learn more about the Fowler Family, visit us at the McCracken County Public Library Local and Family History Department